Jerusalem, Oct 29 (The Street Press) – On Sunday, Israeli forces launched a ground operation against Hamas in Gaza. This is part of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to as the second phase of a war that has been ongoing for three weeks, with the goal of defeating the Palestinian militant group.
As Israel’s warplanes bombed and troops moved into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the residents in Gaza experienced a significant loss of communication and Internet access. Israeli military leaders indicated that they were preparing for a larger ground offensive.
During a press conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Prime Minister Netanyahu cautioned Israelis to prepare for a challenging and prolonged campaign but refrained from officially labeling the current actions as an invasion. Some of President Joe Biden’s advisors have recommended to their Israeli counterparts to avoid an immediate all-out assault, according to U.S. officials.
While the initial ground operations seem limited for now, Netanyahu promised to do everything possible to rescue more than 200 hostages, which includes Americans and other foreigners held by Hamas.
Netanyahu stated, “This is the second stage of the war whose goals are clear – to destroy Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and to bring the hostages home. We will destroy the enemy above ground and below ground.”
In response to Hamas’ attack on October 7, Israel has imposed a stricter blockade and conducted airstrikes on Gaza for three weeks, resulting in the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year history, with at least 1,400 Israeli casualties, as reported by Israeli authorities.
Western nations have largely supported Israel’s claim to self-defense, but there’s been increasing global concern about the impact of the airstrikes and a growing demand for a “humanitarian pause” to enable aid delivery to Gaza’s civilians and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
According to medical authorities in Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million people, approximately 7,650 Palestinians have lost their lives in Israel’s efforts to eliminate the Iran-backed militants.
President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the Palestinian Authority in parts of the West Bank, while Hamas governs Gaza, stated, “Our people in the Gaza Strip are facing a war of genocide and massacres committed by the Israeli occupation forces in full view of the entire world.”
The situation in Gaza has become increasingly dire, with many buildings destroyed, making shelter, food, water, fuel, and medicine scarce. The humanitarian crisis worsened when phone and internet services were disrupted on Friday night, followed by heavy bombings throughout the night. The communication blackout continued into Sunday. One Gaza journalist described a harrowing experience of seeking refuge in a building’s stairway as bombs fell and confrontations occurred between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters, saying, “God help anyone under the rubble.”
Israel’s chief military spokesperson did not confirm whether Israel was responsible for the telecommunication blackout in Gaza but emphasized that they would take necessary measures to safeguard their forces.
ISRAEL TARGETING MAZE OF HAMAS TUNNELS
Israel deployed troops and tanks into Gaza on Friday night, with a particular focus on targeting infrastructure, including the extensive tunnel network constructed by Hamas. However, specific details about the size of this deployment have not been disclosed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated on Saturday that Israel was urging Palestinian civilians to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip, where Israel was concentrating its efforts to target what it believed to be Hamas hideouts and other installations.
The situation in Gaza remains perilous, with Palestinians expressing concern that no area is truly safe, as bombs have struck homes even in the southern part of the densely populated territory.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the unfolding situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe.” The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to convene on Monday to discuss the Israel-Gaza crisis, as reported by diplomats.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk offered his SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network to support communication in Gaza for “internationally recognized aid organizations.” However, Israel responded by expressing concerns that Hamas might misuse this network for terrorist activities.
Netanyahu met with the families of the hostages on Saturday. He mentioned that efforts to secure their release would continue, even if a ground offensive took place, and believed that increased military pressure on Hamas might help bring the hostages back. However, he didn’t provide further details.
Negotiations between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Qatar, were ongoing, but they had slowed down considerably since the escalation in Gaza on Friday, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Hamas’ armed wing reported clashes between its fighters and Israeli troops in northeastern and central Gaza. They expressed readiness to resist the aggression with full force and thwart any incursions.
The United States and other Western countries had encouraged Israel to delay a major ground offensive due to concerns about the potential for high Palestinian casualties and the escalation of the conflict. They also wanted to allow more time for hostage negotiations. However, U.S. officials emphasized that the decision ultimately rested with Israel.
Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, stated that while Israel had no interest in expanding the conflict beyond Gaza, it remained prepared for any situation on all fronts.
The crisis led to hundreds of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators taking to the streets in cities across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia on Saturday.